Sunday, March 12, 2006

GOP Bought Hayes' Vote on CAFTA

Everyone knows that Robin Hayes broke his promise to his constituents. He had promised to vote against CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Republicans and corporate interests in Washington had different plans for Hayes.

Hayes sold his vote. He sold out his constituents. Now we're finding out just how much the Republican Party and corporate Washington are paying Hayes for that vote.
The Charlotte Observer has this to say:

The Concord Republican, who saved the pact by changing his "no" vote to a last-minute "yes," is getting high-profile, expensive help in his re-election bid:

• First lady Laura Bush, who rarely stumps for House members, came to Charlotte last month to help Hayes raise a reported $300,000. U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman soon followed, meeting with Hayes and N.C. textile producers, who had been divided on CAFTA.

• Political action committees for 30 companies and business groups that led the fight for CAFTA donated almost $80,000 to Hayes' campaign last year -- most of it after the July vote.

• House GOP leaders have also pitched in, though their largess came in the month before the 217-215 House vote. That June, Hayes' campaign got $35,000 from the leaders' PACs -- including $10,000 from House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

The most glaring evidence of the financial basis for Hayes' decision comes from the contributions to his campaign from corporate leaders. They showed their support directly before the CAFTA vote and in the months immediately following the CAFTA vote. Sound like bribery? Sure, but that's business as usual in Washington. From the Observer:

"His flip-flop has lost him a lot of support in his district," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. "So he's trying to make up the difference with...this windfall corporate payoff."


"It's a pattern (in Washington)," Wallach said. "The corporate PACs lavish money on members before important votes to seduce them into voting the corporate position. Then if they do, they get rewarded afterwards."

Rewarded afterwards is another way of saying they get money. Lots of it. So, have the free trade agreements been good for our country? They are intended to open markets to U.S. goods by removing tariffs and other trade barriers, but do they work? Bush the father saw NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, passed on his watch. Bush the son saw CAFTA passed on his watch. The United States of America is experiencing it's highest trade deficits in the history of our nation.

In a word, no. The free trade agreements passed by the Republicans and the Bush family are not working. Hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs have been lost in this country and they're being replaced with low paying jobs at Wal-Mart where workers sell goods from China at minimum wage with minimum benefits.

Martin Crutsinger of The Washington Post attributes some of the trade deficit to the increasing oil prices, but said the steep increase in the trade deficit was unexpected.

The Commerce Department reported yesterday that the deficit jumped to $68.5 billion in January, 5.3 percent bigger than in December. Analysts had expected the trade gap to worsen, given the surge in world oil prices, but the increase caught them by surprise.

Even with the surge in oil prices, NAFTA which was inacted 14 years ago and CAFTA inacted last year, should be helping hedge the impact of oil prices. They are not. Even without the steep increase in oil prices the U.S. would be experiencing a trade deficit.

Analysts said that unless demand for imported goods slows, the United States could produce a record annual deficit for the fifth year in a row, topping last year's imbalance of $723.6 billion.

The solution might seem simple. Americans should buy goods manufactured in our own country. It sounds simple, but it isn't. Foreign goods, especially from China, are often much less expensive. They also are often of poorer quality. Those who are struggling financially because their jobs were exported have to many times sacrifice quality for the lower price. This creates a viscious cycle where the displaced workers are buying the very goods that helped put them out of a job.

And about those exported seems that's the only thing America is good at exporting these days. A year ago it was reported in Mother Jones that we are exporting American jobs at 400,000 - 500,000 a year.

Contributing to this is the fact that American goods are getting harder to find. Which makes sense, as American companies are closing and American workers are losing their jobs. The Made In America label is quickly disappearing. That claim has been news for a few years as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Rocky Mount Telegram.

Where does this put Robin Hayes, the Republican Representative to the 8th District in North Carolina? Right in the middle of the briar patch. Thousands of his constituents have lost their manufacturing jobs while he's been in Washington and many of them blame free trade agreements. He made a promise to vote against CAFTA and he voted for it, receiving lots of Republican and corporate cash as a reward. Sounds like Hayes had his own little trade agreement. I think there is another trade in the future for Hayes. In November I think we'll see that Washington payoff traded for some voter payback.

Buy American. Vote Democratic.


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